November, 2023 | Kherson, Ukraine

My Home Project

The Centre for Recovery and Development is a project set up by Ukrainian locals in response to the loss of thousands of homes destroyed in Ukraine since the full scale Russian invasion in March 2022. 

A local Ukrainian, Dima, wanted to do something to help and eventually found that his calling was back to his family’s tradition of building. He now fearlessly leads a team of local men and international volunteers making a difference in the lives of hundreds of families across the country. 

This is his story… 

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The future

Dima has not only set up a timber mill and construction space on the outskirts of Kyiv, but has now expanded down to Kherson, a region that is still actively attacked and constantly under threat.

The men work in an old air hangar, which enables them to continue construction throughout the winter and in harsh weather conditions.

The dream is to expand this construction model and establish micro-factories across the country to meet the demand for these essential living pods.

For a small cost of $5000 USD, Dima has been able to pack these homes with 100 times that value. Built with locally sourced materials, these 3mx6m tiny homes are completely insulated from floor to roof against temperature, air, and pests. They are lined with quality timber paneling and equipped with a small and highly effective wood heater, kitchen, and small bathroom. 

Dima’s words resonate deeply: 

“Now they have a house, they have a home. And this way people feel how God love’s them. This is the way how God answers the prayers of the people.”

Delivery

Trucks loaded with the tiny homes are loaded up at the Kyiv construction site and transported to the Kherson region overnight. Working with a team of local volunteers, foundations are prepared and made ready for the homes to be craned into place. 

The operation is quick and very satisfying. 6 homes delivered and setup in a single day.

Two flags

One question we kept asking was: why stay? This is still an active war zone, the risk of attack is very real, and there is nothing left here. Why not move somewhere safer, at least to the west of Ukraine?

The general response was, “This is my home. How could I leave it?”

People would rather live in ruins, in their car, or in a barn than leave it all behind indefinitely. Most are willing to fight for their country and lay down their lives for their way of living. Something that today’s younger generations in what is described as “safe countries” cannot conceive.

There’s a reason why Ukraine has two flags.

The blue and yellow flag represents the sky and wheat fields. The second flag, red and black, symbolises the black earth (“Chornozem”) that Ukraine is known for and the blood spilled for Ukraine.

Dignity and security

The biggest impact for us was when we visited a small village outside Kherson that was absolutely devastated, not only by the invading forces but also by the flooding of the Dnipro River. As a result, there was no safe and clean water, all gas lines were cut, and the homes were destroyed.

Despite this, most residents have chosen to remain and try to rebuild a life amongst the rubble.

While we were preparing to deliver basic aid supplies to the people of this village, we were warned about the new obstacle. Due to the flooding, this village had also been overrun by a mouse plague, bringing disease and infesting everything that remained.

During our time in the village, we met an 80+ year-old grandmother who was receiving a new home from Dima’s team. We were able to walk through the remains of her home, which was still littered with her belongings. You could see smashed remains of her beautiful plates, bowls, and ornaments. You quickly get the idea that this was a typical home of an older person who had lived a good life. It made me think of my own grandparents and their beautiful homes filled with treasures collected over a lifetime.

We were then taken to her temporary accommodation, a tent that provided shelter but nothing more. From the first step inside, the entire ground and everything around moved. The scratching and screeching sound of mice filled the air. Then came the smell.

We’ve been in some difficult places during our work with international aid organisations, but nothing could have prepared us for this.

What hit hardest was that the tent was beautifully arranged. This babushka had worked hard to create order and cleanliness in the tent, but nothing could protect her from this invasion—not only the mice but also the cold and wet that couldn’t be kept out.

What Dima and his team are doing here is not only providing safe living conditions for these people but also restoring their dignity. They are giving these people something that keeps them safe from everything that has plagued them to this point. The faces of these people were so warm with love and thankfulness as they received their keys and walked into their new homes for the first time.

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